October 16th, 2012
10:55 PM ET
2 years ago

Internet goes wild over 'Binders full of women'

(CNN) - In the thousands of words spoken in Tuesday's presidential debate, it was four awkwardly phrased ones that set the Internet afire: Binders full of women.

In response to a question on gender pay inequality Romney said that as he was assembling his cabinet after being elected governor in Massachusetts, he questioned his staff for sending him only male applicants and was told those were all who were qualified.


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"I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,' and they brought us whole binders full of women," Romney said.

Before the debate was over, there was a Twitter hashtag, a series of memes on Tumblr, and a Facebook page with over 100,000 fans. The phrase was the third-fastest rising search on Google during the debate.

It prompted memes, such as Hugh Hefner in what appears to be a library: "Binders full of women? Oh sure, I've got hundreds of them."

READ MORE: 'Binders full of women' is debate's viral hit

The Obama campaign was in on it as well: a paid post from President Barack Obama's official campaign account appeared atop searches for "binders full of women" on Twitter.

In the second question of the night, voter Katherine Fenton queried Obama: "In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?"

The incumbent cited the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was the first piece of legislation he signed into law.

Romney, who worked in business, then served as governor of Massachusetts, said he "learned a great deal" about the inequalities between men and women in the workplace when chief executive of his state.

"I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men," Romney said. And I – and I went to my staff, and I said, 'How come all the people for these jobs are – are all men?' They said, "Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.' "

Romney said he requested "a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet."

Then, the sound bite which drove the online chatter.

"I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,' and they brought us whole binders full of women," Romney said.

The tweets and posts quickly stacked up.

Kate Segal, whose Twitter bio says she is the Democratic floor leader in the Michigan House of Representatives, took a political angle.

Among the memes was at least one using an image of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in sunglasses which went viral earlier this year.

"Romney still uses binders," the meme reads, as Clinton looks at her cell phone.

Another showed Romney speaking at a podium with a stack of ring binders next to him.

In the debate, the former governor credited his outreach effort with his mix of department heads.

"Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort," he said. "But number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school."

The highest-ranking woman in his administration was his number two, Lieutenant Gov. Kerry Healey.

But in the social media sphere, yes, puns are permitted: a post to a "Binders Full Of Women" Facebook page read, "Trapper Keeper jokes are appropriate."

READ MORE: Funniest tweets on the second presidential debate

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– Romney message this week: 'A clear choice on debt and deficits'

– Largely hidden away, Obama reports debate prep 'going great'


Filed under: 2012 • Debate • Mitt Romney
soundoff (846 Responses)
  1. RogueRobots

    I wonder if Mitt ever hired any qualified women for top positions at Bain? I recall there was a picture of Mitt and his Bain executives holding wads of money in their greedy little fist, but I don't recollect that there were any women in that picture. When Mitt became governor, he realized that he couldn't run the state like a Boys Only Club like he had at Bain. Quick, bring him a binder full of women, because he doesn't personally know of any that are qualified. He then balanced the state budget by paying them less and reducing their hours so they could make dinner for hubby. Try not to burn your Welsh cakes girls.

    October 17, 2012 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  2. Dale Starling

    Get a grip people binders are like booklets. He was brought a binder full of women applicants. The liberals will try to turn this into something else altogether. Obama has nothing to run on so he has to try anything. Romney/Ryan 2012 Obama is a failure!!!

    October 17, 2012 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  3. Larry L

    Romney just lost whatever tiny fragment of the women's vote he had. Binders? Was he saying he'd make the economy so good the "job creators" would even hire women?

    October 17, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  4. Dale Starling

    CNN should be ashamed Candy Crowley caught helping Obama lie about Libya!! Time to stop covering up for Obama.

    October 17, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  5. Jean

    There's consistently carelessness in the way he talks about people. I think it's more than a slip of the tongue. He said, when talking about the 47% that they think they 'have a right to food and whatnot'. All this reminds me of the dog tied to the roof and the gay teen bullied–whether it's actual uncaring or just being in such a rush that he becomes careless–either way, it makes me cautious about him.

    October 17, 2012 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  6. easchner

    Specifically targeting to hire women is just a different affirmative action, and does nothing to ensure EQUALITY. He even admitted to doing it somewhat in order to 'look good'. That wasn't the question. I can specifically go hire women and treat them like crap. Or I could hire the best available candidates, treat them with respect and dignity, and pay them fairly regardless of gender. I think a lot of women would like that.

    October 17, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  7. Dan

    In families today, both men and women share household duties like cooking.
    This isn't the 70s show where women left early from work to do the cooking.

    October 17, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  8. Mukudi

    He never answered whether he would support equal pay for equal work. He would be happy to employ women, but he does not want you to know he believes employer should be free to pay them less if that is want they want to. He did not say whether the women he employed got paid less.

    October 17, 2012 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  9. Romney is just confusing. Seriously.

    Romney did not say if supports pay parity for women. Equal work for equal pay. Romney doesn't really know what he's doing. Seriously?

    October 17, 2012 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  10. Jan

    To Nocas... If you would keep your bias to yourself and just deal with facts you would find that obama did NOT say "terrorit attack" in the Rose Garden Speech he in fact said "act of terror" two completely different thoughts. Even Crowley said after the debate she was wrong! I guess she isn't as smart as everyone thinks she is. To the ones that are talking about Romney and equal pay for woman what part of his state having more woman in high level jobs with pay to match than anyother state in the U.S. did you not understand? Obama pays women that work for him less, but I don't see anyone jumping on that issue. Don't believe me? Look it up. As a single mom, I want a job that has flexable hours so I can get home when my kids get home from school like Romney said and yes I DO COOK FOR THEM!

    October 17, 2012 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  11. tomball10

    women love to talk about equal pay and how unfair it is...blah blah...does that mean when a women goes out with a guy, the bill should be split?? sorry...as a female, i still like the old fashion way...for a guy to pay the bill, hold the door open for me, take me on trips etc...so i am okay with them making a little more money since, they will probably be paying most of the bills

    October 17, 2012 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  12. tomball10

    what's wrong with a female getting home to make dinner...it's what many married women do, it's what single moms do all the time...maybe getting home early to spend it the family is a good thing....the more time you spend with family the better is the way i see it. sorry but, if you are married or single with kids...parenting should be your biggest job of all

    October 17, 2012 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  13. malia

    Sometimes, words don't come out the way you really intend to, ask VP BIDEN ! And you feast on this... Why don't we talk and focus on the record the past 4 yrs. Do you really think that when millionaires and billionaires pay $100M more for taxes, this will hurt them and the middle and lower class will benefit? When small businesses making more than $250,000. become subject to higher taxes, do you think they will expand business and hire more people, the middle and lower class? NO. NO. NO. So who losses in the class warfare? OBAMA'S MIDDLE CLASS.

    October 17, 2012 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  14. Anthony

    Romney is asked.. how can u help women to get equality in the workplace when it comes to pay ... he starts telling the young lady about how one time while he was hiring he went out and found women to work for him .... then he tells her about the issues that exist .. which i'm sure she was already aware of ... then he gives 1 example about what he's done to help women and assures the young lady he's qualified in that area ... lol .. Obama talks about facts and puts the flashlight on Romney so everybody can clearly see how much nonsense Romney is talking.

    October 17, 2012 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  15. Jen

    some women will still vote for romney because he said that he had women in his cabinet. Are you kidding me ladies, do you have proof that he did????? He has no respect for women at all. Disgusted.

    October 17, 2012 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  16. umass89

    Now I know what to be for Halloween: a Binder Full of Women....genius Mitt. 100% Gold.

    October 17, 2012 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  17. Anthony

    Good Job Obama !! Haven't finished watching it yet, but i'm pleased to see our President showed up to this debate with some fight in him!! So far so good !! Sorry rich, self centered people !! You're not getting into the white house. You're lies are being exposed.

    October 17, 2012 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  18. Anthony

    Romney " President Bush and I are different people " ... oh yea ... Romney grew up with a charmed life, lies a lot and only cares about rich people, making sure they don't pay anymore taxes than they already are and to make sure the big companies keep their tax cuts ... and Obama worked hard, got his education, helpled the low income communities rise up from the ashes to live again and is now the President of the United States working for the middle class... oh yea ... big difference.

    October 17, 2012 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  19. Let's Be Reasonable

    Regardless of your political stripe, you have to agree that it was good watching Mitt get called on his lies and his fantasy budget and tax plan.

    October 17, 2012 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  20. sidrakhanali

    "Binders Full Of Women"

    Is apparently how Romney solves the pay inequality issue.
    And how men in the middle east pick wives.

    October 17, 2012 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  21. Medicmom

    As a Paramedic, there is no reason I should make less than my male counterpart but I do. We have the same years of service in with the same agency. Romney needs to wake up!

    October 17, 2012 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  22. Thomas

    Romney looked old and out of touch , I like how he admitted he went to France to avoid going to Vietnam

    And when Romney said one way for illegal immigrants to become citizens is to join the military . I thought that statement strange on the grounds that none of Mitt's five sons did any military service .

    As for Romney understanding the needs of working women , sending them home early to make dinner for the kids .
    Did Romney practice that work ethic for woman employees when he ran Bain ?

    And Romney's answer in regards for being deferent from GW Bush . Romney said its a different time , Since most of Romney's staff previously worked for GW Bush time stands still in Mitts mind.

    October 17, 2012 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  23. BeverlyNC

    Show Romney is such a clueless jerk who has total disdain and disrespect for women. He even laid the blame of violence on single mothers because they did not have a man in the house! He would not even support equal pay for women and he again made sure women knew he would not support our right to make decisions for ourselves for our own healthcare. Goodbye Romney. Men stuck in the 1950s like you will never be President – the women of this nation will stand up for ourselves and against women haters like you. Women will defeat you and save outr 40 years of progress to be counted as valuable as men. President Obama support women, created healthcare for women, access to contraception, an equal pay law, and shows complete respect for his wife, the bright future for his daughters to be anything they want, and is a real human being who cares about ALL Americans. He is a genuine caring human being. Obama all the way to a second and successful term for ALL of us.

    October 17, 2012 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  24. Crash

    No surprise here. Repubs have sought to keep women bound ever since they won the right to vote... bound to low pay, limited educational and career opportunities, inadequate health care, restricted contraceptive and reproductive freedom, etc... Women: born to be bound! Vote Republican!

    October 17, 2012 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  25. JimB

    Romney would be a nightmare for women. What are the women voting for him thinking (probably not). How awful and condescending!!! He has no interest in anybody that isn't rich (or in the 47%). Why doesn;t Obama ask him about his taxes? Why only two years?

    October 17, 2012 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
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